Myrna Driedger
Broadway Journal

Here in Manitoba many people rely on cars to get to where they need to go. We have the privilege of living in the most beautiful province in Canada with so much nature to explore. There are national and provincial parks, top rates beaches, friendly festivals, and exciting adventures all within driving distance. With so much driving to be done we must take road safety seriously.

Distracted Driving

In today’s world there are so many distractions. The expectation of people to tune in constantly can be exhausting. There are always emails to attend to, texts to send, phone calls to take, and social media accounts to monitor… the pull to check your phone is strong! It is important that people on the roads fight that urge. Just looking away from the roads for even a few seconds can have fatal consequences. That email or text message or tweet can always wait.

In Manitoba distracted driving has been the cause of roughly 1,800 injuries annually according to Manitoba Public Insurance. Unfortunately, roughly 100 of these injuries are serious and some are fatal.

There are new laws in effect that are trying to effectively reduce the amount of distracted driving incidents in Manitoba. Drivers will be fined and face suspensions when they are caught. Distracted drivers will lose their license for three days and now be forced to pay a fine of $672. This is a great step in the right direction. Real consequences have the ability to deter distracted driving.

Driving under the influence

Drinking and driving is a serious concern that has received more and more attention over the past few decades. Raising awareness about this issue is important in young drivers as well as older drivers. Reaching out to our young new drivers is a great step towards enhancing knowledge about the threats of drinking and driving. Presentations in high schools to the grades that are undergoing Driver’s Education classes have had a positive impact. Although still too common, drinking and driving today is much less common than it has been before.

Driving under the influence doesn’t just mean drinking alcohol and driving. It can mean taking prescription and non- prescription drugs. This is especially important to note as we enter a new era where cannabis is legal. Legalization will allow for more and more Canadians to experience the effects of this drug. It is illegal to drive while impaired by THC. A side effect of marijuana is that it does inhibit a driver’s reaction time and doubles the risk of a crash.

Over the holidays, especially, is a time of heightened risk for distracted drivers and drivers under the influence. There are many options to prevent drivers getting behind the wheel.

Operation Red Nose

This is an organization that operates in many Canadian provinces. An amazing initiative, Canadians have every right to be proud of this Canadian grown organization that began in Quebec. This is a free program wherein volunteer drivers go to where a caller is and drive them home. They also drive home their vehicle. While the service is free, they will gladly accept donations. Where these donations end up depends on which city or town you’re using this service in.

No matter where you are, you can trust that Operation Red Nose is benefiting some amazing groups. This program runs from the end of November to the end of December annually and in Manitoba is available in Winnipeg, Brandon, Flin Flon, Gimli, LaBroquerie-Steinbach, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Shilo, St. Malo, The Pas, and Thompson. This is a fantastic group that works hard to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road while also getting them home with their vehicles in tow. There is no excuse for drinking and driving. We all know that holiday parties might lead the way for some to believe that they are able to have a few drinks and head home but it is important to remember that the cost to this choice may be deadly.

Public transit, taxi, rideshare

With so many new rideshare programs throughout Canada and recently in Manitoba there is never the need to drive while impaired. There are many options available year round to avoid making a reckless decision. Taking public transportation in Winnipeg is a great option. We have a great bus system, new ride share companies, and taxis.

It is important to remember that although a taxi or rideshare like Tappcar might be more expensive than the bus, it is only a fraction of the financial cost of a ticket and incomparable to other possible consequences of impaired driving.

I am so proud to live in this wonderful province. I am grateful that most Manitobans take on the road safety seriously already. For those that are not quite there, I am grateful that we have officers to enforce the law.

Hon. Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood and Speaker of the legislative assembly.